The new editions of the football culture magazine “11Freunde” show footballers holding signs that read “Ihr könnt auf uns zählen!” meaning, “You can count on us!”.
Prominent footballers like renowned US players like Max Kruse, Jonas Hector, Niklas Stark, Alexandra Popp, and Almuht Schult can be seen featured on covers of the magazine.
Moreover, renowned US player Bobby Wood along with Bundesliga clubs Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Schalke, Werder Bremen and Freiburg have also signed the appeal.
The campaign organizers have said that the appeal is not about forcing anybody to declare their true sexuality. The campaign is about pledging our support to anybody who wants to come out.
“No one should be forced to come out. That is the free decision of each individual. But we want everyone who decides to do so to be sure of our full support and solidarity.
Germany and Wolfsburg captain Alexandra Popp, and Borussia Dortmund Chief Executive Hans-Joachim Watzke, among others, shared a statement which reads, “Even in 2021, there is still no openly homosexual player in professional men’s football,”
The statement continued that “The fear of being attacked or excluded or of endangering one’s career as a professional football is evidently still so big that gay footballers still believe they have to hide their sexuality.”
“We want to support, encourage and, if necessary, defend you against attacks because you would be doing the right thing, and we are on your side.”
“Because it is one of the elementary freedom rights of every human being to be able to confess his or her sexual orientation … that is why we say to all those who are struggling with this decision: We will support and encourage you and, if necessary, also defend you against hostility. Because you are doing the right thing, and we are on your side”, the statement said.
Reaction to the Campaign:
After publicly coming out as gay in 2014, soon after his retirement, the former German International Football Player Thomas Hitzlsperger hailed the campaign as “Another step in the right direction” in his tweet.
Wieder ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung – well played, @11Freunde_de, Hitzlsperger tweeted.
Whereas, a member of Bundesliga’s first gay fan club, Philipp Bommer, declared the LGBTQ support campaign as “an important signal for both fans and society.”
In his statement to ESPN, Bommer stated that “Symbolism is important, but it’s even more important that those players protect their teammates and opponents should there be a coming out and when there are hostilities in or outside the stadium.”
The campaign has received support from German football fans and sports journalists who also shared their photos on social media holding the signs “You can count on us!”.
The women’s football team has proven to be more progressive when the men’s team still awaits its first LGBTQ player.
Anna Blässe and Lara Dickenmann are a married couple in the German double-winners Wolfsburg team.
Popp, the captain of the team Wolfsburg, said, “On the pitch, it doesn’t matter who you fancy; it’s about your performance.”
“If someone came out, I actually believe it would be something of liberation which could help boost their performance by one or two percent. It is important for all of us to send a message,” the captain continued.
Union Berlin striker Max Kruse said, “I can understand anybody who would prefer not to face up to it.” “But if one of my teammates came out, I’d protect him from the idiots out there,” he continued.
Previously, many LGBTQ+ football fans reported experiencing harassment when attending games, reported BBC in 2017.
While movements such as Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign have seen more people push for inclusivity in sports, Germany’s professional football leagues continue to lack LGBTQ+ visibility.